For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: December 12, 2003
Health Care Discounter Agrees to Advertising Changes
(Boise) - A Pennsylvania company that markets a health care drug discount program has agreed to stop using fictitious news references in its advertisements and to encourage consumers to find out whether their health care providers are participants before purchasing a membership, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said.
Wasden announced that his office reached a settlement with Peoples Benefit Services, Inc., marketer of The Peoples Health Plan. The settlement has been approved by the Fourth District Court in Ada County.
The Attorney General initiated his investigation after a consumer reported she was denied a discount from several Idaho physicians who were listed as plan participants on the Peoples Health Plan website.
In its direct mail and television advertisements, Peoples Benefit Services, Inc. represents that, by enrolling in its plan for $10.95 per month, consumers may obtain a discount of up to 40% from health care providers who participate in the MultiPlan Health Care Network. In its membership materials, Peoples Benefit Services, Inc. refers members to a website to determine whether the consumer's health care provider participates in the plan.
The Attorney General's investigation revealed that the website contained inaccurate information, including out-dated addresses and the names of physicians who no longer practice medicine in Idaho. The website is maintained by MultiPlan, not Peoples Benefit Services, Inc.
"Many people are rightfully concerned about health care costs," Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. "While opportunities to reduce those costs are welcome, consumers will always be better off to be certain they will personally save money before purchasing any discount or other money-saving programs."
The settlement also addressed Peoples Benefit Services, Inc.'s advertising, including television ads that refer to "late-breaking news on the health care front" and a written ad that a consumer could confuse with an official government document.
While admitting no wrongdoing, Peoples Benefit Services, Inc. also agreed to change its advertisements so that consumers understand that area physicians and hospitals listed on the MultiPlan website have no direct contractual obligation to Peoples Benefit Services, Inc. The company also paid the state $7,500 in costs and fees.
Deputy Attorney General Stephanie Guyon handled the case.
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